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How firefighters train for large building fires

When it comes to alarms at buildings like the one destroyed in Plainfield this week, experts say many factors are considered to ensure safety, efficiency.

INDIANAPOLIS — After the massive fire that engulfed a Walmart Fulfillment Center in Plainfield on Wednesday, 13News reached out to one fire department that worked the fire to learn how they prepare to handle such situations, particularly in large buildings.

“Whenever we are going to a fire, it’s as awesome to us as it is to the public. The only difference is when we get there, we know our purpose,” said Danny Brock, health and safety officer for Brownsburg Fire Territory. 

“We listen to the orders of arrival, so for the first engine, second engine, third engine, there’s a different job immediately assigned to them as you hear that call being broadcasted,” Brock said. 

Brock said once they arrive, many factors come into play to ensure safety and efficiency.  

“What we are thinking when we get there is 'what tool am I going to grab? What are we going to be responsible for? If we attack, we are grabbing a hose line? Are we going to take it off the front or back?' That all depends on where the chauffeur parked. Everything is predetermined, based on the actions of everybody else arriving and where we park and stage,” Brock said. 

RELATED: Officials say fire now out, as ATF begins on-site investigation into Plainfield warehouse fire

It creates a quick and almost seamless process, despite how overwhelming a fire might look.   

“With one of those massive fires, you might have hundreds of functions going on at the same time across a large area. Each one is really broken down into a smaller task level,” said Tony Smith, deputy chief of operations for Brownsburg Fire Territory. 

Smith said it starts with a commander who puts various operations in place around the incident. Then, each operation has a safety officer who oversees a group of firefighters and paramedics.  

When it comes time to do the job, that’s when the training kicks in.  

“We have training for every facet of this job and what it takes to do the job,” Brock said.  

RELATED: Following massive Walmart blaze, safety and medical experts offer advice for cleaning up fallen debris

Training can include everything from basic fire attack skills to special operations. The department also does building walk-throughs every year to get to know the safety of the structure and those working inside. It’s part of the territory’s “community risk reduction” plan.  

“In the last several years, the crews who are actually going to fight the fires are walking through our buildings to familiarize themselves, so in case an emergency does happen, they already have some foreknowledge of what would go on there,” Smith said. “Over time, you gain this cumulative knowledge and eventually, as guys gain experience, they become experts on the building.” 

Smith said with many businesses coming and going, they are constantly reviewing building safety so their crews are set up for success.  

“When they show up on a scene, hopefully we’ve done our part to give them the best chance, but make no mistake, it’s the brave men and women of our fire department getting off the rigs that do the real work,” Smith said.

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